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Weeknight Cooking

Tips for Doubling Your Favorite Recipes and Dinner Staples

Minimize weeknight cooking stress by maximizing the cooking you're already doing.
By Published Aug. 23, 2019

We love the convenience of large-batch meals. From one recipe, you get dinner that night plus plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day or to pack up and store in the freezer. A bonus: You save yourself a second night of meal-planning and dishwashing.

It's tempting to just multiply everything in a recipe by two and cook it according to the directions—but that doesn't always work. You need to give extra consideration to cooking time, cooking vessel, and more. Here are some tips to keep in mind if you want to make more of your favorite recipe.

1. Don’t Overcrowd the Cooking Vessel

Want to double that chili recipe? Leave the Dutch oven in the cabinet and reach for a stockpot (or two Dutch ovens) instead. Want your meat to achieve a flavorful, crisp crust? Sear it in two batches instead of adding double the meat to the skillet at the same time. And if you’re doubling something that calls for an 8-inch square pan, using a 13 by 9-inch pan is your best option.

Doubling a recipe in a pressure cooker is pretty straightforward: If the original recipe calls for a 4-quart pressure cooker, you’ll need an 8-quart pressure cooker to double it. Only have a 6-quart pressure cooker? You can increase it by half. In both cases, the cooking time will remain the same.

2. Rely on Temperature, Not Time

Unless you have specific instructions, doubling a recipe can result in a guessing game when it comes to doneness. So don’t rely on time. Instead, rely on temperature and other doneness tests specified in the recipe, such as an inserted toothpick coming out clean or stew meat achieving that cut-it-with-a-butter-knife tenderness. Check out our review of digital instant-read thermometers to see which model we recommend at every price range.

3. Be Smart About Oven Placement

Adding a second dish to the oven will affect the way both dishes cook. When baking more than one thing at the same time, allow for some space between the pans and between the pans and the oven walls. Also, stagger their placement in the oven so that the air can circulate and the dishes will bake evenly, and rotate and switch the dishes halfway through cooking.

4. Don’t Overthink It

Want to double a salad, stir-fry, dressing, sauce, oven-roasted salmon, pasta, or other simple recipe? Just multiply each ingredient by two. (But again, if there’s a cooking step involved, like in a stir-fry recipe, you may need to adjust the cooking vessel to accommodate the larger quantity of ingredients.)

5. Double the Rice, Not the Water

Rice-to-water ratios can't be scaled up proportionally when multiplying a recipe for steamed or pilaf-style rice. That’s because rice absorbs water in a 1:1 ratio, no matter the volume. For example, in a rice pilaf recipe that calls for 1½ cups of rice and 2¼ cups of water, the rice absorbs 1½ cups of water. The remaining ¾ cup of water evaporated.

But here's the catch: The amount of water that evaporates doesn't double when the amount of rice is doubled. In fact, we found that when doubling a batch of rice using the same conditions as we'd used for a single batch, the same quantity of water evaporated. Hence, simply doubling the recipe leads to mushy rice because there is an excess of water. The bottom line: When multiplying a rice recipe that uses the absorption or pilaf method, the ratio of raw rice to water should always be 1:1, plus the amount of water that will evaporate. To figure out how much will evaporate, subtract the amount of rice from the total volume of water in the original recipe and add that amount to the 1:1 volume of water. 

6. Don't Overwork Your Appliances

Food processors and stand mixers are powerful tools, but they have their limits. Unless doubling your recipe still results in a small quantity, it’s best to mix it in two batches instead of risk overworking your appliance.


Want to know how to store and freeze your leftovers? Check out these articles: